Adoption Trauma: How to Peel Back Layers of Hurt, Loss, and Anger?

The ‘write’ way to touch a feeling?

My son Jonathan was changing! I could see it. His Mom could see it. It was gradual, but it was happening. Finally, there was hope! After years of searching, we had found the help he needed.

For a very long time, Jonathan would NEVER look me in the eye. Something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what. And the day Mary Beth and I took him to begin treatment, Jonathan wouldn’t even look at me.

But weeks later, something was different. He LOOKED different! He made eye contact with me, and there was a sparkle in his eyes that had never been there before. His eyes were SMILING! And we weren’t the only ones to notice. His therapists told us Jonathan was beginning to LIKE himself!

We had loved him unconditionally, but that didn’t matter. He didn’t like himself. Children of adoption have a hole in their heart. A hole brought on by the feeling of abandonment and the belief that something is wrong with them. It is often called adoption trauma and we had never heard about it before.

It took WEEKS of therapy, WEEKS of introspection, WEEKS of peeling back layer after layer of hurt, loss, and anger. And finally, his smile began to emerge. We could see it in his eyes. Jonathan was SMILING! A new chapter in his story was beginning.

What was the difference-maker?

There were several factors. For one, Jonathan had an entire team dedicated to helping him discover his core issues. But that wasn’t all.

To be honest, when I heard what he was doing, I was skeptical. But I wasn’t going to dismiss it just because I didn’t understand it. The results were obvious. Jonathan was getting better.

In a previous post, I shared the story of how the actions of Corporal Desmond Doss during World War II inspired Jonathan to make necessary changes in his behavior that allowed him to come home. You can read the story of Corporal Doss and Jonny’s Shirt here.

But I never told you the main thing Jonathan did to unpack, discover, and confront the feelings of his adoption. It was only after weeks of therapy along with this daily practice that Jonathan could begin to heal the hole in his heart.

And, ironically, the thing he learned to do was something another person was doing at the same time in history as Corporal Doss.

How does a person Unpack, Discover, and Confront the feelings that trouble their heart? 

A young teenage girl said it this way over 70 years ago:

I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart. ~ Anne Frank

That’s exactly what Jonathan did — he wrote. More specifically, he journaled. It’s how he began to understand WHY he felt the way he did. Jonathan Journaling! Really? The kid who would cry when he had to write anything down, was journaling? Was it easy? NO! Was it worth it? YES!

We were in communication with Jonathan’s treatment team on a regular basis. Every Thursday, we had a call with his lead therapist.

On one of those calls, I remember asking, “Please explain to me WHY journaling is so important in Jonathan’s therapy.” I’ll never forget what she said:

You can THINK a feeling. You can SPEAK a feeling. But if you really want to TOUCH a feeling, you need to WRITE!

I’ve since discovered, there’s something about putting pen to paper that engages the brain in a way that thinking and speaking can’t.

How and Why does journaling heal hearts? I don’t know, but I will share some conversations I’ve had with people who know the answer at another time.

I do know this. You can’t intend your way to healing! Especially the kind of Heart-Healing Jonathan needed. It takes work and LOTS of it. Journaling is healing Jonathan’s heart. I’ve seen it healing Jonathan’s heart. I’ve seen it firsthand. Will he continue to journal? I PRAY he does!

Do I understand it all? No! I just know it works. There is a “write” way to touch a feeling. Jonathan was proof to me.

In future stories, I will explore journaling more with you at another time. If that is something you would be interested in, please comment below.

But before I go, can I send you something? It’s the quote from Corporal Doss that Jonathan used as his daily affirmation.

I’m Author, Storyteller, and Adoptive Parent, Tim Maudlin. I would love to connect with you. Details in the comments below.

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